- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, authorized the memo outlining ways to use classified information to attack President Bush, according to a Senate source reported by Sean Hannity on his radio program. In speeches on the Senate floor, Mr. Rockefeller and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Jon Corzine refused to repudiate the memo categorically. This is unacceptable. America is at war and cannot afford to have its intelligence services further compromised.

Mr. Rockefeller has tried to convince Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts to let bygones be bygones, and appeared to be making some headway in that direction. On Wednesday, Mr. Roberts failed to make an appearance at a Republican press conference blasting Democrats for using intelligence for partisan political purposes. This could be read as a measured attempt by an experienced legislator to avoid public hotheadedness, but later in the day the chairman made it sound as if he was ready to sit down with the Democrats and smoke the peace pipe. “The answer is simple,” he said in a speech in the Senate chamber, “We go back to work. We have documents yet to review.” No they don’t, at least not yet.

It would be irresponsible to continue business on the Intelligence Committee until those who have expressed intent to misuse secret information are gone. Mr. Rockefeller has said he wants to get back to work and that the country must come first, but mere words are not enough to undo the damage his staff has done to the committee. Before they can again be trusted, Mr. Rockefeller and his Democratic colleagues must prove their good will. The irreducible measure to prove their good faith must be the firing of the Democratic staff member who wrote the memo, no matter how high up she or he may be in the office.

The challenge to re-establish the credibility of the committee is one Republicans face as well. In fact, it is up to the majority to take control of the situation. Mr. Roberts and the other Republican members of the Intelligence Committee need to demand that the author of the memo be fired. Until then, it should be made clear that the committee will not resume regular order of business.

Compelling complete rejection of the memo’s tactics is not a way for Republicans to score political points. It is a requirement that must be met to rebuild the bipartisanship that is the usual and necessary operating spirit of the Intelligence Committee. In the memo, it was suggested that Democrats take advantage of the collegiality of Republican senators to attack the Republican president. For the committee to once again be regarded as reliable to handle classified data, Republicans cannot allow any wiggle room for Democrats to mischaracterize the conspiracy or to minimize the dangerous intention of the memo. It is time for the committee to move ahead with the work of making America more secure.


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